Monthly Archives: March 2012

Destination: Ladakh, India

It was very difficult to sort through my Leh, Ladakh albums and choose pictures to post. To me every picture was beautiful. Anyway here are a few I thought I’d share. The picture credits goes to my friend Tarun Pawar ( well most of them).

  

Categories: India | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Dr. Ida Scudder

Ida S. Scudder 1899

Ida S. Scudder 1899 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One night, a man knocked on Dr. John Scudder’s bungalow asking for a doctor . His wife was in labour and she was in pain. However he did not want Dr. John, he wanted his daughter Ida to come and care for his wife. He was a Brahman.His culture  and he would rather let his wife die than be tended to by a man.  Ida declined explaining that she was not a doctor. The man went away.

As fate would have it, the same night a Mohammedan and a Hindu man knocked on the door, each asking for Ida to aid their respective wives in labour. As politely as she could, Ida refused. She was no doctor.

The next day changed Ida’s life (and probably a hundred thousand others) forever. She came to know that all three wives in labour the previous night had died. Wondering if she could have reversed their fate, she found her calling in life. Ida had been shocked at the depraved situation of Indian women,from the child brides to the practice of sati.  She vowed she would never let another woman suffer on her watch.

She went back to the States enrolled in Cornell Medical college. She returned to India a qualified doctor.She intended to open a women’s hospital  to care for the women of India. She had a generous amount of $10,000 from Mr Schell a banker from Manhattan. Her first clinic  was a humble room in her house with the verandah serving as the waiting room.

Soon word of the doctor spread and patients started pouring in . Ida realising that she needed more hands , if she truly wanted to make a difference employed the help of her kitchen maid, Salomi.  It then dawned on Ida that the only way to sustain the hospital was to train the women to care for themselves and others. Salomi went on to become the first trained nurse in the hospital.

Soon Dr. Scudder started a medical college which initially recruited only women. Today the college is recognised as one of the premier medical institute in the country. The humble Mary Taber Schell hospital has grown and continues to grow treating over  thousands of patients every day from all walks of life and all over the country.

One simple decision on the part of Dr. Ida Scudder to travel to India and help the poor and the afflicted has benefited millions. So the next time you think of volunteering or helping out, take the plunge. You might be the next Ida Scudder to someone else.

We all have the same resources, the exact 24 hours of the day as did all those great people who have made a difference. Maybe what we lack today  is an unconquerable spirit. But it’s never too late!

 

Categories: Heritage, India | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Seven Nizams of Hyderabad

Hyderabad is a very interesting city.  It has had its share of past glory, betrayal and neglect.  From the death of Aurangzeb, to the disbanding of the Mughal empire, through the storm clouds of the British rule right up to  the formation of a free Indian state, seven Nizams  have ruled Hyderabad. Here is a brief summary on the legacy of the Nizams.

The First:- Nizam-ul-mulk Fateh Jung 

The real name of the first Nizam is Mir Qumaruddin.  To honor him for his valour  in the battle field Aurangzeb bestowed him with the title “Chin Fateh Khan”. Later emperors added to the  titles  Nizam-ul-mulk Fateh Jung and Asif Jah. Thus the dynasty of the Nizams were born and to complicate matters historians decided to title the dynasty as the “Asif Jahi” one.

After the death of Aurangzeb , Nizam-ul-mulk Fateh Jung declared his independence from the Mughals and moved to the Deccan to set up his empire. He chose Hyderabad as his capital. Nizam-ul-mulk Fateh Jung fought decisive battles which established his supremacy in the Deccan and kept all the other warring Rajputs at bay. Around the same time as when Nizam-ul-mulk was establishing his territory the British and the French had locked horns to control India.

Nizam-Ul-mulk  wisely left the British and French to their devices and steered clear of any foreign powers.

Unfortunately after his death , there was no heir apparent. His son and his grandson were old enough and equally ambitious to pick up the reigns of what was looking to be a flourishing empire. The British and the French stepped in wanting to penetrate the invincible Deccan. Nasir Jung was supported by the British but it was the grandson Muzafar Jung was aided by the French who succeeded only to be murdered by his son Salabath Jung who in turn was in turn was ousted by the brother, Nizam Ali Khan. What can I say, it runs in the family!

History does not recognise Muzafar Jung and Salabath as Nizams.

The Second: Nizam Ali Khan

Nizam Ali Khan ruled for about forty years during a tumultuous period. While his grandfather kept foreign powers out of his empire, Ali Khan  employed a French general as an advisor and military leader and simultaneously sought alliance with the British Raj. It was this alliance that served Hyderabad an advantage; while  the rest of the princely states in India  had the British poke their nose into the daily affairs, Hyderabad was left to herself.

The Third: Sikandar Jah

Sikandar Jah was the undisputed heir after the death of Ali Khan. He had able statesmen to handle the administration of his state. Secunderabad  was named after him.

The Fourth: Nasir-Ul-Duala

Nasir-Ul-Duala was the eldest son of Sikandar Jah. During his rule the financial state of the state of the Hyderabad was greatly improved by his prime minister, Salar Jung.

The Fifth: Afzal-Ul-Daula

Afzal -Ul-Daula became the Nizam when the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 was fought. He retained the services of his father’s prime minister, Salar Jung.  He built the mosque at Afzalgunj and encouraged settlers to the area. He died at a very young age and  leaving behind an infant heir.

The Sixth: Mir Mahboob Ali Khan

In my opinion the sixth Nizam is far the most interesting of all. He was barely three years old when his father died. He was the infant prince. Salar Jung along with the British Resident in Hyderabad undertook the care of his Nizam. Of all the influences in young Mahboob’s life Salar Jung’s was the strongest. Salar Jung played different roles to the young Nizam, a father figure, a mentor and a subject. Unfortunately for Mahboob, Salar Jung died while the prince was still a minor. However at the Prince’s request Lord Rippon agreed to grant investiture with full power. Salar Jung’s son and Mahboob’s former class mate became prime minister to the sixth Nizam.

Mahboob’s brother in law Vicar- ul-Umra built the Falaknuma Palace which was later gifted to the Nizam. It was here that the Nizam fell down, was paralysed and later died.

The Seventh: Mir Osman Ali Khan

Mir Osman Ali Khan shifted the Nizami residence from Falaknuma back to Chowmallah then to King Koti. Since his father died while in residence in Falaknuma  he deemed it an unlucky palace.

Mir Osman Ali Kahn had many personalities. He was an able statesmen and cared about his subjects.In 1908 the Musi river overflowed causing the worst flood that Hyderabad has ever seen. When Osman Ali came to power he initiated a board which saw to the restoration and erection of a lot of public buildings , some of which are functional even to this day.

He was very generous and tolerant to all religions.He was the richest man during his life and gave away money generously for any charitable cause regardless of the caste, creed or religion.

He is also rumoured to have had a 100 wives and a bunch of illegitimate children. None know the truth of this, however after his death there were people from all walks of life who came forward alleging to be his child and claiming a share of his wealth.

In 1948 when an Independent India was born the Nizam refused to accede to the Indian. Instead, he wanted Hyderabad to be recognised as an independent sovereignty. In September after five days of battle Hyderabad was captured and the state of Andhra Pradesh was formed. The Nizam’s land and wealth were seized  and his military commander jailed. Thus ended the reign the 224 years of Nizami rule in Hyderabad.

The would have been Eighth: Mukarram Jah

Mir Osman Ali Khan passed over his son in his will and as a result his grandson Mukarram Jah inherited the title in 1967 with the death of the seventh Nizam. However in 1974 the Indian Government abolished the title of Nizam and to make matters worse his grandfather left him more worries than riches.

Drop in later to read about how the heir of the richest man in the world eats humble pie today. Not by choice mind you!

Categories: Heritage, India | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Arguments in favour of volunteer travel

Before I left home in October I knew myself to be a strong, independent woman. I did not need anyone else to look out for me. I could handle myself;  deal with stuff as they happened. I was the poster picture of modern woman! Yeah!

Then Kenya happened in my life and I have add to realign and re think certain beliefs about myself and my surroundings.

When I was planning on volunteering I scoured the net looking for resources on what to do and not do.  I came across a lot of contradictory ( and at times rather abusive ) articles and comments related to the topic.There were those who were all for it and then there were those who lashed out even before you said”volunteer”.

I am no expert on this topic but I would like to add my thoughts and my experiences to the millions of threads that are there on the net devoted to arguing for and against volunteering. Before you read any further I would like to add that I consider volunteering to be a very personal thing. Having said don’t make up you mind as to whether it is a bad aspect or a good one until you have spent at least a week volunteering  far away from home.

A lot of people who offer opinions about volunteering ask you not to  travel hundreds of miles across the globe to grab some one else’s job. Instead. they say donate all the money you would have spent travelling to a  NGO. It is my opinion these noble souls have not volunteered a day in their life in a location far away home.

Think of it as a two-way education. When you use your skills at the project site, some one else learns it too. So what you are doing is in fact sharing your knowledge and learning something else in turn. Do not ‘ONLY’ donate your money to an organisation. Spend it at the place too.  My view of this is that when you donate some/most/all of your donation goes into keeping the administrative side of the organisation alive.  The entire amount does not reach the people at the ground level.

On the other hand when you spend your money at the site, think of the cycle you start. You pay for your food and shelter to a family. The family uses it to buy food from the local grocer, who needs to replenish his stock and so uses the money to get fresh stock from the farmer and so on.

  Another argument for volunteer travel and one that is close to my heart is human connections that it creates. I cannot put down in words just how wonderful people are. They  become part of your extended family.  Before October I did not really care about what happened in the coast of Somalia nor was I deeply affected by the famine in the horn of Africa. But today these things really matter to me. Today if I were to see a headline that remotely affected Kenya I would read right down to the bottom and even click on the related links. If it matters to them, it sure does matter to me.

Above all the argument that should put this debate to rest eternally is the aspect of change. The change they bring to themselves. I was foolish enough to think that I was going to change the world and such like. The person who I really changed was myself , to see myself for who I truly am, to recognise strengths that I never knew existed, to turn around  weakness.

So by volunteering you are not taking someone else’s job , you are simply providing yourself an education that the four walls of a classroom cannot.

Categories: Everything Else, Travel | Tags: , | 8 Comments

Where the tortoise and the hare wins

Last week was crazy. I was running around from shop to shop asking for door handles and hinges and screws slightly longer than an inch. I was waking up to the birds chirping and clear crisp morning air with not a trace of pollution. I was always traveling, rushing from place to place. I found myself sitting in the waiting area of hospitals, unusually quiet and deserted catching up on some reading.

I helped my sister settle down in her new apartment. I just lazed an entire day doing absolutely nothing and feeling perfectly divine.I had so much leisure time that I watered my cousins water deprived plants.  I was in a rush to meet family and friends that I did not board the return train home. I ate out and I helped my cousin cook pesto chicken with the basil that she grew. ( Oh pure joy!)

If I was in Aesop’s’ fable I wonder what I would be;would I be the hare or would I be the tortoise? In all my travels I have tried to be the tortoise not wanting to lose. But last week I learned something- no matter how fast or slow ( or how right Aesop was) the tortoise and hare wins. It’s all in the mind. Sometimes you have got to race to get there. At other  times you can always  slow down and still be sure to get there. The difference lies in knowing who you want to be at that point of time. You cannot be both,  the tortoise and the hare. You have got to choose.

You know what they say you win some , you lose some!

Categories: Everything Else | Tags: | 3 Comments

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